Conflict Resolution by Kathie Wickstrand (2011)


Jimmy Tierney: All right. Thanks for everyone coming in this afternoon and listening to Kathie’s second talk of the day. I do want to — my name is Jimmy Tierney by the way, one of your ASCA board members and coach at Northwestern University.

So, let me clear up something that Kathie brought up earlier this morning and maybe related it with two kind of quick stories or examples. When we were coaching together there were times when I would have a combination of girls and guys, it’s kind of the distance group, and Kathie would have the others and she would say, “Jimmy, I’m going to have a team meeting with the girls and this would be a day I would have a coed group.” And she’d say, “You know, it would be half hour, forty minutes or something like that. Then you’ll get the rest of your group for your training.” And Kathie knew darn well that I was very sort of particular about my water time back then, you know, needed to get in my full workout [Inaudible] [00:00:55]. And so 30 minutes would come and I’d have the guys getting warmed up and then I’d start in on a little, you know, minor set or something. And then it would get to be an hour. Kathie is still over there with the girls, the team meeting. Hour and 15 we’d be starting the main set, I’d be going, “I’m not getting them at all today, you know.” Debt in my mind, “Okay, it will be — instead of 7,000, it will be 5,000, and okay, a little bit less, a little bit less, you know.” So, her team meetings were, you know, legendary during that time.

So, and the other one would be in a one-on-one meeting, occasionally Kathie would, “Excuse me from the office, I need to meet with so and so. We’re just going to, you know, have a one-on-one a little bit.” And she would come in and, you know, you could see a little bit of, on the athlete’s face, a little bit of anxiousness and tensions, you knew that something was going on. And so I’d walk out and go do something. Come back 15-20 minutes later and you could start to see some tears rolling down the athlete’s face. And I’d go and do something else and come back 15 or 20 minutes later and the athlete will be bawling, and Kathie will be handing her, you know, boxes of tissue, wiping away. Fifteen minutes, and I’m not exaggerating on the time, I’d come back again and her face will be starting to clear up and she’d sort of have a little bit of life in her face again. Fifteen-twenty minutes later I’d come back out, she’d be smiling and they’d be hugging and patting each other on the back. So, Kathie would take them and ride it down hill and tear them down and then bring them back up that make them feel like there’s something special.

So, when she was mentioning that I was methodical and slow at times, I am sometimes on my thoughts and actions and stuff. But in terms of talking in team meetings, she’s got me beat by miles and miles and miles. So anyway, I’m sure you guys enjoyed things this morning. And I’m sure this will be a special presentation again. So, please welcome Kathie Wickstrand again.

Kathie: Thank you. And thank you all for coming again. I really, really appreciate it. I know there are other things going on. I hope you’ll learn something about conflict today. I just am so passionate about this and I think it’s such an important topic and I don’t think it’s talked about enough. So, I really want to give you a lot of information. After we did our talk last year, when Teri and I talked abut team dynamics in Indianapolis, we talked about conflicts so much during the talk. Sorry, is that better? Okay. We talked about conflict so much during the talk. John Leonard said, “Why don’t you give a talk on conflict resolution.” And I said, “I’d love to do that.” And so that was a year ago and I knew I was going to be doing this. So, I have literally read, I think, six books on conflict resolutions since last year. I also, I’m a believer that whenever you decide that — like if you pray for tolerance or you pray for forgiveness, that you will be given things in your life so that you’ll learn forgiveness and you will be given things in your life so you’ll learn tolerance. So, I always say be careful what you pray for.

So, in the last year I cannot tell you how much conflict there has been in my life, I’m not exaggerating. And I think it’s because I’ve been really thinking about it and reading about it and curious about it, not trying to really study it as much but just learn about it and how do I look at it and what is written out there about conflict, and especially conflict in teams. There’s a lot out there written about conflict in business, and I think there is some similarity but it’s not exactly the same as it is if you are dealing with athletic teams. And my experience is mainly from the college world so that’s the springboard that I talk from, but I do believe everything I’m going to share with you today is absolutely useful in club, masters. I really don’t think there’s any difference when it comes to talking about this.

So, I really — last year when we talked about this we said, Terry and I both said, “How many of you like conflict?” Oh, I’m sorry. Just keep doing that because I’m a slow learner, okay? We said, “How many people are comfortable with conflict?” And I honestly think the only person that raised their hand was John Leonard. Huh, surprise, surprise. Those of you that know John are not surprised by that. And people say to me, “Oh Kathie, you know, I don’t really do funerals. I don’t do hospitals. I’ve heard a lot of that in the last year because of what I’ve been through. I don’t really do conflict.” Yes, you do. If you’re alive and you have relationships and you have a family, you do conflict. You might not like it and it might not be something that you’re good at or you want to have come in your life, but trust me, you do conflict. And because we love people we go to the hospital, because we love people we go to funerals. It might not be the thing that we would pick but we do those things.

So, hopefully after today it won’t be as scary. I want to normalize conflict, that it’s not this big, scary thing to do. I’ve been — a little bit of my background, I’m a trained facilitator, I’m also a certified behavioral analyst which means I study behavior. I do an assessment called the DISK that a lot of you have heard about. I’ve done talks at ASCA about the DISK. The DISK and other thing have really taught me a lot about conflict and how different people are like Jimmy was just talking about. If he is a slow mover and I’m a fast mover and we’re working together, right, there that’s conflict, okay? There’s conflict in all sorts of different areas of life.

I have been involved in an organization for the empowerment of women for the past 25 years, it’s an organization called Woman Within, that’s not important to the speech. But what is important about me telling you that is I lead women’s workshops all over the world. And one of the things that we’re trained in is how to deal with conflict. I’ve taken classes in mediation. I love to take any classes that are out there that will help me as a facilitator. I’ve done all sorts of interesting different things to add to my toolbox. I meet with a group of women, I have for the past 20 years, I’ve met with a group of women every other week for 20 years. Some of us have been together, I’ve not lived in California that entire time, but I was in a similar group when I lived in Chicago and then I formed and joined the different group here in San Diego. And at the beginning of the group when we meet, these women and I, the first thing we do is we do what we call clearing. And basically what it means is if there’s any conflict in the group let’s bring it up and talk about it. So, does anybody have anything that they need to clear with anybody in the group? I’ve heard that said, for the past 20 years, every other week, that’s a lot of times that I’ve heard that. There’s not a time that I’ve heard that that my heart doesn’t start raising. I do not like to hear that. The words does anybody have anything that they want to clear with me makes me very nervous. I don’t like — I don’t want anybody to clear with me. I told Teri that it helps me to have better behavior with my friends because I don’t want them to have to come and have things to say to me. So, it really keeps in check. But what it does is it helps our relationship. So, with those women that I’m in that group with, if there’s conflict, we deal with it. So, I’ve learned over a long period of many, many years and I lead those six-week trainings so I’ve taught hundreds of women how to deal with conflict. And I’ve never met anybody that’s all excited about it, ever.

So, I want to — I think — I’ll keep doing my best with this. I think conflict is like morning workout. Some people love morning workout, I was not one of those people. I’m one of the people that when the alarm clock went off, every time that alarm went off, my first thought was, “Oh God.” Every time for — I don’t know how many years but every time that alarm went off I was like, “No, please.” And then the reality is I would get up, I would get dressed, I would get in the right frame of mine, I would show up at practice and I would do a good job to the best of my ability. And when I was done, I felt really good about myself and I was so glad I did that and I didn’t regret it at all. But everyday I had that same need, that kind of reptilian fight or flight kind of reaction, “No, I don’t want to do this.” And I think conflict is like that. I always have that kind of “No!” and when I do it and I’m brave enough to talk to somebody, I just told — Teri and I at lunch, I talked to her about some really hard things. And we both had tears in our eyes and I feel closer to you now, and I feel better because I was willing to have that conversation. So, it’s like morning workout. You’re going to feel better once you do it, okay?

So, I’m going to give you some examples of some conflicts. And I think most of you will relate to this, okay? I’m just going to run through a few classes because I want you to know the kinds of things I’m talking about. So, a parent on your club, a parent speaks to you in an insulting tone that crosses the line between sarcasm and just plain being rude. How do you handle that, one of your parents does that? Has anybody — has that ever happened to you, one of your parents? Yeah, I’m sure that has happened. Okay. You’re an assistant coach and your head coach just committed you to a deadline that you know you can’t meet. And in not so subtle terms he says that he doesn’t want to hear any complaining about it and you’re just supposed to meet the deadline. How would you handle that? That’s conflict. You have on your team a no body art policy, this is an exact thing that happened. You have a no body art policy on your team and a new freshman arrives sporting a colorful mew tattoo all over the back of her body that completely raises your blood pressure. What do you do? That’s conflict. This happened to a friend of mine who’s an accountant this past year. An accountant has to talk to a client who is violating the law, just a little bit, just a little violation, you know, not a big one but a little violation. And you just know that this person when you talk to him he’s going to minimize the effects of the violation is no big deal. What do you say? The accountant was a client of mine and this kept happening to her. What do you say? It’s time to tell granddad that he needs to turn in his car keys. “No more driving for you, granddad.” How do you tell him that? You get elected because you’re the coach in the family to tell granddad that. That’s conflict.

We all face conflict, and I’m going to give you a few more examples that I wrote that I think are pertinent. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t, no, maybe not, I’m not going to. We all feel — you know, the thing about conflict is we all face it and we think, I think at least, I’m setting very clear expectations and very clear boundaries – and they just keep doing it. I’m really slow. I think I’m setting really clear boundaries and expectations. I’ve told you no body art. I’ve said, you’ve read it, I’ve told you. And it’s very annoying as a coach when I’ve been clear, I expect the world, as a coach, if I tell you something you’re going to do it, right? Now, unfortunately marriage isn’t quite like that, okay? And some of us try to teach — treat our spouses like we do our athletes and that doesn’t work very well, as I know you would all agree with. So, it’s what do you then when you have athletes that are absolutely going against one of your policies? And basically you’re disappointed and not knowing how to handle it is very normal, very normal. So, I’m not just talking about a conflict where you and another person are really angry about something. I think the ones that are trickier in life — this is a conflict — this is something that actually came up more than a couple of times in my coaching practice. I’ve had women that have been getting their haircut from the same person for ten plus years and they don’t want to go to that person anymore, they’re really — they don’t like how their hair is cut, they don’t want to go there anymore. And I have had people absolutely stay with the same hair dresser for 20 years because they don’t have the nerve to say, “I don’t want to see you anymore.” Now, that may sound really simple and silly to some of you but that is a real life conflict to people on things like that. It’s the more subtle things that I think are tricky in life.

So, I want to normalize it. So, I guess I would ask you all to think about are you good at holding people accountable. How many people, raise you hand if you think you’re good at holding people accountable. I want to just see — show your hands. Okay. And how many people know I really have some work to do in this area, I know I need to do a better job of holding people accountable. It would make my job easier. So, thank you for you honestly. So, you know, this talk isn’t just for the people that know you need to work on it. I do this for a living and I feel like I learn about this everyday. I like to say this, the most competent leaders have an ability to hold people accountable in a respectful way, they can hold people accountable in a respectful way and that’s a big difference. And I want to share a story with you. I’m going to shorten it up because I want to make sure I get through everything. See, I learned, takes me about ten times. I say all the time, if you want to have any kind of behavioral change, it takes a lot of people telling you you’re doing it. And none of you said, “You idiot” you know, you were smiling and you raised your hand and that’s how you change peoples’ behavior. So, thank you in the purple shirt back there, you’ve been very nice at reminding me.

So, I want to share a story about you where not being willing to stand up had tragic results. And this is — again, I’m not going to go into the whole long story about it, but it was in 1982. There was a jumbo jet, it was crossing — it crashed into the bridge linking Washington and Virginia, I don’t know if any of you remember this, any of you from the West Coast remember this accident. It was in 1982 and they retrieved the black box. I think all but five of 79 people died, so it was a fairly large tragedy. And when they opened the black box and were able to hear it, what they found was fascinating and it actually is really sad but it doesn’t surprise me. What they found, and I’m going to use my words, what they found is the head pilot had been a pilot for 30 some years, he was very well established, and the co-pilot was brand new and this was maybe his third flight. And there was this unspoken rule among pilots that you don’t really confront the ones that have a lot of seniority, you don’t say things to him. And there were lots of stories and what I read about doctors like this and lawyer situations, I read story after story like this. And so the young pilot, they were getting ready to take off and it was icy, and he kept saying things like, I actually wrote one of them down because I didn’t want to get it wrong, he said — this is on the black box, “See all those icicles in the back there and everything? Boy, it’s a losing battle here trying to de-ice this isn’t it?” On the black box it said this. He also said — he just kept dropping hints and you could hear it, I had the transcript, you could hear it. Never did he come right out and confront the pilot and say, “Stop. I think this is dangerous. I just got out off school and we just studied this about de-icing, and I’m afraid if we don’t stop you’re going to crash” he never said that. He never — it was all this kind of beating around the bush. And it was tragic when you read the transcript that he didn’t have the nerve. And it actually, as a result of this tragedy, it changed policy. They did this big investigation and found out that there was this whole hierarchical system in airlines and how the co-pilots wouldn’t say certain things.

And I’ll tell you, conflict that’s not spoken about, as I was writing this and thinking about this I thought about all the conflicts that’re happening in the United States, so many in the last couple of years. Like all of you or a lot of you are sitting there going like this, like think of the conflict that’s happened in the United States swimming, you know, think of who actually knows what happen to Mark Schubert. Now, I know some people do. But a lot of you probably have no idea like, “Where is Mark Schubert?” That’s kind of like, “Whoa, we don’t talk about that” right? There was a whole show on TV about a lot of sexual, explicit things happening to athletes that really don’t get talked about at this level because I think it brings up too many different opinions and there’s too much conflict. I believe as an organization, if we had better ways of talking about these things we’d be a better organization. And I don’t think there’s a forum or a place to talk about this conflict, and I think it’s hurting our sport. I don’t know the solution but I do understand the problem. And I wish there were — I wish there was a way to do some of the stuff with our organization.

I’m continually stunned in this — see, you didn’t even have to do that. I’m continually stunned, I was going to bring some live text and live emails with me today and I decided not to because I didn’t even know which one to pick, to be honest with you. I work with a lot of college age, club age athletes. And my big pet peeve is you do not type or text any thing that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face. If you don’t — I mean you can’t dictate that but you sure can be a model for that, and you sure can say that’s your expectation, okay? If I — one of the things I like to do is take an email and I read it in a really funny, happy kind of, like I’m in a good mood, you know, really kind of like that, and read it. And then I kind of shake it off and then I read it like I’m pissed, okay? And then I read it like I’m afraid. And every way I read it I say, “How would you take this email?” It’s the same email, the same text but whatever mood you’re in is how you’re going to take it. So, if there’s any kind of conflict, the worst thing to do is use text or email. If you take nothing else but that from this talk, I will be a happy person, okay? Any kind of conflict needs to be done face-to-face. If there’s any kind of emotion, don’t text it.

I have for myself and I know — I know Teri has this, I know there are other coaches sitting here in this room that have this. I have a 24-hour reaction rule. If I get a text or an email that is charged in any way to me, maybe it shouldn’t even be charged, it’s not even a big deal, but to me, it’s charged, I do not respond for 24 hours because I’ll tell you what, emails don’t go away, okay, it’s right there. And I have had so many people tell me, just this past week, a girl — I do have this on my phone. She texted me a text about — it was ridiculous, I didn’t even know what she was talking about. It was all about how someone was so two-faced, dah-dah-dah-dah-dah. It was a young girl. I didn’t understand the email. And I just didn’t do anything with it, it was Labor day, I’m like, “I am not dealing with this on Labor Day. I am with my family.” I did not do one thing. I got a phone call that night, “Oh, my gosh. Kathie, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking. I didn’t do my 24-hour thing. Please disregard my message. But now you have it so you could do something with that, couldn’t you?” And then the next day I finally texted her back in 24 hours, my 24 hours, and I said, “Do you need to talk about this?” And she said, “No.” I did not get involved in that at all. I didn’t get upset. I didn’t get wound up. I didn’t — she did, but I did not. Too many of you get wound up and caught in all your little athlete’s drama, and they’re supposed to have drama, they’re young kids, even the college kids. You are not, however, okay? We don’t want you getting wrapped up in the drama. Okay.

So, I’m going to go to the slideshow, okay? So, grab a piece of paper, grab a piece of paper if you would. Do you have something you can write on all of you? Yeah? Okay. So, I want you to think of a person or a problem or a situation in your life either past or present right now that has been a problem for you. It’s something that upsets you, you may not even call it a conflict but there’s something, a person or a situation that’s bothering you, some kind of problem. Write it down on a piece of paper, really quickly. Not the whole paragraph, just I have — if I were to do this, I just write one person’s name, and I would know what that meant because this person — I have a little conflict right now going on with someone and I would write this person’s name down. Okay? Everybody got somebody? Yeah? Okay. Just hold on with that and we’re going to do something with that in a second. I need to — you have to bear with me one second. Who knows PowerPoint? Anybody? No, I want to be able to see my notes and I don’t want you all to see them. Is that possible? No the little notes at the bottom. All right, never mind, we won’t get that. Okay, that’s okay. I came prepared.

All right. So, conflict happens. The cause of conflict is usually very, very simple. I don’t have enough information. So, that’s why you use the “don’t react” right away. Because many times you need to get more information, it’s that simple. Now, sometimes it’s not that simple but many times it is. So, I want you to learn two things, that different opinions is one of the great benefits of being on a team. It’s one of the things that’s so lovely about what we do. Oh, gosh, sorry. Right. So, I keep doing little things like this. I’m with conflict with the computer. Your team members whether they’re male or female or young or old or whatever, they have strong feelings and emotions. And they can’t achieve their full potential if you don’t address these conflicts. Okay. Sweeping things under the rag, the storming phase is not going to work, and I know some of you know this. I — oh boy, you know what? I’m now a little worried because I got rid of the slide. So, now I’m very concerned that something is going to — hold on you guys. What the heck. Okay, this is really freaking me out. Okay, somebody just start talking. Someone share their conflict — oh my God, how did that happen? Did you see the slide from this morning is on that? It wasn’t when I checked it over lunch. Let me just — oh my gosh. I’m so sorry, you guys. This is a little — oh good God. We’re okay. We’re okay. Oh, you know what? It’s all going to be fine. I’m a professional. Okay, let’s see if this works now. Okay, we’re going to do this, oh, but you can’t look. Okay. Sorry about that. I just had a little, mini heart attack, okay.

So, I’m going to turn something on the screen. Hello. No, it’s okay. Yeah, I’m okay. Thank you though, thank you. I’m just glad it’s working now. I’m going to turn on the screen. I’m not going to say anything. You’re going to have ten seconds to count the F’s, ready go, in silence. Okay. So how many people, raise your hand if you think there are three F’s raise your hand, okay. How many people — I did need the walking one, didn’t I? I lied. How many people think three? Put you hands up again. Okay. How many people think four? Raise your hand. How many people think five? How many people think six? Okay. Six was the lowest number. Six is correct. All right. Just right there, that is the simplest illustration I can give you how we all see things differently. I’m going to put it on here, now look at it. For some reason your brain when O and F are next to each other it makes a V sound of V instead of F, finished. And your brain doesn’t see it. So, when I do this with groups I get all sort of answers but the least answer I always get is six, and there are six because there are three OF’s, there’re three F’s right there. You see the finished, you see the files, and you see the scientific but you don’t see a OF. So, again what’s this tell you in terms of conflict? Anybody, help me out here, what does this tell you?

Audience: People see things differently.

Kathie: Way differently. And most coaches that I meet, what’s kind of their favorite little thing to say, “I’m right.” I’m right. Okay? We kind of hang our coat on that, “This is the way we do things. I’m right.” And quite often we’re misinformed, quite often. So, you already saw that, okay. So, I love this, and here’s the small print, and I believe that you have to do this if you’re going to be successful, you need diversity, you need people with different skills, you need a lot of different attitudes, views, people from different cultures. I believe a team with conflict can achieve more than a team with similar values. That’s when — for those of you that were there this morning, Teri won this year and they had the most conflict. They had girls from all over the world, lots of different opinions and values and yet that was the very thing that brought them together at the end. So, we each have our own way we look at things, just like the F’s right there. We need to all agree to disagree. I think some times the work conflict resolution is a little bit of a — not the word I would use because sometimes things can’t be resolved, sometimes we have to agree to disagree.

So, here’re questions, how do you see conflict? So, I like, like I said earlier today, I want you to be aware. So, how do I define it? What’s conflict mean to me? How do I respond to conflict? What is my strength around this? These are a lot of different questions that you could use with your team to start a discussion. And I would like you all to think about these things first, okay? I already said that so we’re going to go back now.

The way you’ve learned about conflict is what you saw at home when you were little. When you were a child or an adolescent, or a teenager, or whatever, whatever you saw mom and dad do or mom do or dad do around conflict, that’s what you learn. That might not be what you’re comfortable with but that’s what you learned, okay? So, I want you to think about what’s my way of dealing with conflict. And here’re different ways. Some people get really quiet. Now, think of a team of 50 people, a conflict happens, you’ve got 50 people and 50 people are going to react differently. If you want them to react like you, that’s very small thinking. You’ll have a few people that look at it like you. They’ll take sides, they become violent. A lot of people were raised where mom and dad yelled and screamed and were violent. So, any kind of conflict to people like that, it’s almost intolerable to be around conflict.

Debating, in my house and those of you that — Jimmy knew my mom and dad. I mean conflict was like a debate society, we debated everything. My mom and dad were like politicians. Some people go into problem solving, they intellectualize, they get really heady, they want to take the emotion out of it. Some people are just like, “Let’s stop this denial. Act your age. Sweep it under the rug.” And some people have a loving spirit around it because they’ve gotten comfortable with it. So, do all of you have a sense of how you as a child, maybe not how you deal with it today, but how you saw conflict? Does that makes sense when I say that? Yeah? Okay. Just every once in awhile like you want with your kids, like just give me a, “Yeah, I got it” you know, you all want that, right? With your athletes — thank you, thank you.

Okay. So, here’s a self-assessment. Okay. So, you can write this down. I want you to, in your mind, say yes or no, okay? So, rather than get into an argument I tend to put off certain discussions longer than I should. If that’s a yes raise your hand. You put off conversations. Okay. When others don’t deliver on a promise, there are times when I judge more quickly than I should. So, somebody didn’t do something I said and boom, I’m judging them really quickly without knowing all the facts. Raise your hand if you know that’s you, okay? It’s not all, you know, it’s not black or white. Sometimes I bring up problems in a way that makes others defensive. This is a biggie for me because I am a shark when we get going a little later. I’m a results oriented gal.

So, is Jimmy still in here? I don’t think he is. I coach with Jimmy and Dan. Dan, you told me not to use you but I’m going to. He said yesterday, “Please do not use me in your talk, Kathie.” Dan and I coached three years together, Dan? Yeah. And Dan and Jimmy are very similar in their study, they’re like a lab — I have a black lab that I love. She is my child. And labs are very steady and they’re loyal and they would do anything for you and they kind of move slowly, and they can run fast but they’re very steady people. Dan is like a lab, he’s very loyal and that’s a high compliment, okay? I am not like a lab, and so I can bring up problems instead of going calmly to Dan and checking out, “Is this a good time? Would you — can we talk? Can I tell you what the issue is and we can discuss it tomorrow so you have plenty of time to think about it?” I would just put him on the spot and say, “We need to talk about this right now. It’s very important. I’m very upset about it.” And Dan would just completely shut down, right? And there is no way he’s going to talk to me like that.

So, we have to learn how to adapt our behavior so we can talk with people, especially our coaching staffs. Defensive, put your hands up. Those of you that go on the defensive with people, okay, four. There are people I routinely deal with who, to be honest, just can’t be motivated, they bug the crap out of me, you can’t motivate these people, raise you hand. Okay, question six. When someone can’t do something I tend to jump in with my advice when all they really want is a chance to talk about their ideas. If this is yes, raise your hand. Coaches are notorious for this. Okay. When talking to others about problems, sometimes I get sidetracked and miss the original situation. So, I start getting in to my own stuff and we’re not even talking about what we were talking about. If you say yes to that, raise your hand. Oh, a lot more of you do that, come on. Eight, sometimes I work through a problem but forget to clarify who is supposed to do what by when. Yes, raise you hand. Okay.

So, I don’t care about how many of you said yes to those, but I do want you to see this link, here at the bottom On that site you can take your whole staff for free, you can take an assessment on how you are with dealing with conflict. You can get some information about you and your staff and anybody can take it, your kids can take it, you can do it with as many people as you want.

[Power outage – further recording and transcription was not possible.]

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